Work of Art: The Next Great Artist -- TV Review

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Viewers settling in to watch "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" can be forgiven for feeling more than a little deja vu. Brought to life by many of the folks behind "Project Runway," "Art" easily could be titled "Project Gallery," because really, that's what's going on here.

Which is not a knock at the show. Few scream loudly at the latest "Law & Order" iteration; "Art" and "Runway" simply are versions of the same successful template. Only here, the talents in residence aren't hemming and basting, they're emulsifying and painting. To wit: Artists arrive, get a task (in the premiere, they create portraits of another assigned participant), spend the episode bringing said task to fruition, there's a surprise (executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker pops in), there's a pep talk from a mentor (the role of Tim Gunn is played by auctioneer/CEO Simon de Pury, punching his words with a Gallic intensity), the presentation follows, judges offer praise and criticism and a winner and loser emerge. On to Episode 2.

So how can "Art" go wrong? Well, not with the contestants; the litter here are solid picks for personality and hipper-than-thou cool, with a range of experience (one never has shown his work outside his home, another has had work accepted by the Whitney Museum). But host/judge China Chow, who might have "grown up" around art thanks to her wealthy restaurateur papa, is not a commanding presence on camera, with a resume that hardly lends to her legitimacy. Instead, the judges -- an art critic from New York Magazine and two gallerists -- fill in the gaps with varying degrees of success. And though "you're out," said in the clipped Teutonic tones of Heidi Klum, hardly is Shakespeare, "your work of art didn't work for us" is as limp as a sodden paintbrush.

Still, the real question is, will enough viewers care about art the way they did about fashion to stick around for the invariably improved version of the show? Hopefully, the answer is yes; this is a show that will benefit from some fine-tuning. What it lacks in originality it should make up for in content, and in the end we all know that this is a franchise (of sorts) that has very good bones.

"Art" moves to its regular 10 p.m. Wednesdays slot following the premiere.

Airdate: 11 p.m. Wednesday, June 9 (Bravo)
Production: Magical Elves, Pretty Matches
Cast: China Chow, Simon de Pury, Bill Powers, Jerry Saltz, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn
Executive producers: Jane Lipsitz, Dan Cutforth, Liz Cook, Andrew Wallace, Casey Kriley, Sarah Jessica Parker, Alison Benson, Eli Holzman
Co-executive producers: Michael Rucker, Gayle Gawlowski, Rich Buhrman
Director/director of photography: Paul Starkman
 Production designer: Charles Aubrey
Casting: Nick Gilhool
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